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Costa Rica 2013

Arenal La Fortuna

COSTA RICA | Tuesday, 25 June 2013 | Views [521]



The shuttle bus picked me up at 8:15. Up to this point I have only been on the local busses ranging from $3 to $12. This was a big splurge for me at $47.  The shuttle only had 5 of us and it had wifi so it turned out not to be such a bad deal. The shuttle is also hotel to hotel service. With all my previous adventures I waited until I got to town and walked around to find a place. To book the shuttle I needed to book a room first. I did a quick google search and the first couple hotels I clicked on were $300++. I then clicked on one that had a low season rate of $85 and had hot springs. I didn't think twice about it and just booked it for 3 nights although it was 3x more than the most expensive place I'd stayed in to date.

The trip was supposed to be about 4 hours and 1.5 hours into the trip we stopped at a soda. The drivers had lunch and I grabbed a piece of chocolate banana bread. The driver had said we'd be there for 20 minutes. After about 40 minutes he said there was a bad wreck on the highway and the other busses were running late. The soda was a stopping point for all the shuttles where they all meet and then shift the passengers around depending on their final destination. It took about an hour and a half for my new bus to arrive and all the passengers that were going to Arenal to get there. The new bus was a little fuller but still comfortable although it didn't have wifi. The driver said it would be about a 2.5 hour drive. The first bit was fine and I was able to do some writing. When we got near Lake Arenal we spent well over a hour going up and down windy roads that didn't settle well with me. I don't normally get car sick but I was definitely not feeling well. I put my iPad away, put my ear buds on and tried, successfully, to not get sick. I was very happy when I was the second stop and got out of the van.
I checked in at Arenal Paraiso (Paradise) around 2:30 and after dropping my bags in the room I headed straight for the hot springs. The clouds were coming in but I was bound to get wet before the rain started. It didn't take long. I was sitting at the wet bar maybe 10 minutes when the rain started; however, the wet bar was covered so it was perfect. I was able to have an Imperial cerveza, enjoy the hot springs, and watch the rain. After it stopped raining, Cesar, the bartender, pointed out a two toed and a three toed sloth in the trees as well as some bunnies running around. I decided to just stay at the resort for dinner so I cleaned up and went to the restaurant at 6. As I was walking to the restaurant the clouds cleared and I caught my first look at Mt. Arenal, something that wouldn't happen again for two days. When I got to the restaurant I was the only one there, just like I'd been the only one at the wet bar. 
After eating I went back to the pools and dipped my foot in most the pools although it was pretty dark. There were a couple people in some of them and a few at the wet bar when I returned. Although the water was warm I ended up getting cold and tired and called it a night around 8. I had a lot planned for the next couple days so getting some sleep was definitely on the agenda.
I got up at 6 and waiting for the restaurant to open at 6:30 where I quickly scoffed down the breakfast buffett.  I needed to be in the lobby at 6:50 for the shuttle bus for canyoning.  Canyoning is also known as rappelling a waterfall and I was super excited about this tour.  We picked up some more people and then drove about 20 minutes until we had to jump out of the van shuttle and on to the back of some pickup trucks.  The last 15 minutes of the ride we up a bumpy dirt rode.  We arrived at a facility where we were suited up with a helmet, harness, and gloves.  We then jumped back in the trucks and up the mountain about another 10 minutes. Once at the top we got some instructions about how to rappel and then we were off.  The area we were in was called the Lost Canyon because it's not on a map and you cannot see it by air because it's hidden under the rainforest canopy. The first rapel was a small practice of only about 8 meters. There were 16 of us and we got through that area pretty quickly.  The second rapel was much higher and longer - a waterfall that drops 150 feet. I some how ended up last but that was ok.  I watched some of the others take off and knew I could do this.  When it was my turn I was so excited.  I braced myself on the platform as I was hooked up to the line.  When it was time I took off.  It felt really fast and I felt like I was doing well.  The first 8 feet is a free fall drop- hence te name of the fall- Angel's Freefall.  Then you rapell for a bit, releasing the brake cable and jumping/walking backwards down the rocks.  Then at a certain point the guides yell "Let Go" and you go flying through the canyon for about 50 feet until you get to the bottom.  It was a complete rush and I couldn't wait for more.
We walked through the canyon a bit, following the stream.  One spot we got to jump into a big water hole.  The water was cold but exhilerating.  We then were told to sit down in the one tight area of rocks.  One of the guides above us had been damming up the water and released it so that we felt like we were in a waterfall.  I was at the top of the group which meant the water hit me first and I had to brace myself from flying forward.  The water was strong and cold but it really was pretty fun.  We also did another small, technical rapel before getting to the Big Daddy.
The Big Daddy watefall is 220 feet. The rapel part of this was pretty short before running out of rocks.  Again we got to let go and fly through the canyon to the bottom.  After that we walked out of the canyon.  I was bummed it was already over (it took about 2 hours) and wanted to go again.  Once we climbed back to the top of the canyon we changed clothes and had some lunch before riding back.  I was dropped back off at the hotel before noon. I hadn't made any afternoon plans assuming, correctly, that it would rain.  I decided to take advantage of the spa facilities at the hotel and made an afternoon appointment for a body wrap, facial, and massage.  The whole treatment took about an hour and a half and was very nice and I followed it up with some time in the hot springs.
Since it was Saturday night I decided I wanted to go into town.  I had the hotel call a cab for me and headed in around 6:30.  About halfway to town the cab driver asked if he could pick up someone else.  We picked up Steve, a Tico bartender who was just getting off work at another resort.  Steve's English was very good and he told me he would take me to a great bar/restaurant in town to party.  The taxi driver dropped us off and we went in.  The place was dead so I asked Steve where all his amigos were.  He said everyone gets off work at 10 so the place wouldn't be too busy until 10:30.  We chatted for a bit asking each other questions when Steve asked me my age.  When I told him I was 42 he kept telling me that I was lying and my skin and face were too pretty to be more than 27, his age.  He then proceeded to tell me that I needed a Costa Rican boyfriend since mine was in Europe.  It was all very sweet and flattering.  He actually friended me on facebook and posted a picture of us before telling me he needed to change out of his work clothes and that he would be back.  After he left I finished my beer and I also left.  I didn't think staying there was a good idea in case he did, or he didn't show back up.
I walked around the town of La Fortuna for a bit.  It wasn't a big town but had a park in the middle and people were starting to show up.  I had gotten some names of some traditional Costa Rican restaurants but the ones I could find were not busy (they were mostly all open air.) I got tired of walking and decided to just stop at a place called the Lava Lounge.  It looked a little touristy but fun and it turned out that the food was pretty good.  I had a pasta dish with sausage and a beer and was very happy.  After I finished I thought about hanging out more and walking around but the hotel said they'd pick me up before 10 and I decided that was probably a good idea.  I had lots more planned for the next day.
My shuttle for Sunday wasn't going to pick me up until 8:20 so I had time to enjoy my breakfast and walk around the property some before heading out for a big day of zip lining and hanging bridges walk. When we arrived we got suited up in a harness and I decided to upgrade to the GoPro camera helmet so I could video my ziplines.  We took a sky tram up to the top and the views were spectacular despite the rain starting as we got near the top.  Due to the rain we waited a bit before starting. After the rain finally slowed down we took off on the first two practice liens. There were only about 100 feet long so it was just to give us a taste of what we were doing and how to stop at the end.  The third cable was the highest of the eight at 656 feet with a length of 1550 feet.  
he were spectacular and so much fun.  The lines were loud and I tried to look all around me while flying through the air.  I wasn't sure what angle the camera was so I looked all over.  On the first run I let go to give a thumbs up to the camera and decided quickly that wasn't a good idea as I started to twist.  I knew I wouldn't fall but I was more worried about slowing down and not making it all the way to the end.  A couple people would slow down too soon and would have to pull themselves along the cable to the end.  
Immediately after finishing the third cable I jumped onto the fourth one which was 1440 feet long and 535 feet high. The fifth cable was 1136 feet long and 256 feet high.  The sixth one was the fast with a speed of 50 miles an hour.  It was also the longest at 2060 feet with a height of 263 feet.  The seventh cable was the last of the long ones at 1440 feet with a height of 276 feet.  The last cable was just a short 82 feet so they could get a picture of you at the end. The were all exilerating!  It took about two hours for everyone to complete the course.  I watched the video and was very pleased with the results.  I then had about an hour break before I was scheduled for the walk.  When I got to the start of the walk at 12:30 I was informed that it was a 3 hour hike.  I somehow missed reading this in on the website but was ok with it.  I started off on the hike up and down the rainforest with a guide, another gal, and a father/son duo from Austin.  The guide was very knowledgeable and taught us a lot about the different trees and bugs in the forest.  We didn't see many animals- a couple birds, a snake, and a bunch of ants.  There were 4 hanging bridges which were quite interesting to walk across and two waterfalls.  There were a few spots with spectalular views.  It was a nice hike but by the end we were all defintiely worn out.  The shuttle bus took me back to the hotel where I immediately hopped into the hot springs.  I ended up staying here for the rest of the evening and even enjoying my dinner at the wet bar.  
Monday morning I woke up and packed before taking off for a two and a half hour horseback ride to the base of the Arenal volcano.  My horse was named Mariposa and she was a good horse although she constantly wanted to be near her mother.  This wasn't necessarily a bad thing but it did catch me off guard at one point when the man on her mother took off in a full run and Mariposa followed. Years ago Dan and I took a few horseback riding lessons but they did not prepare me for the speed she was running.  I had the reins in one hand and held on to the saddle horn with the other knowing full well that wasn't how I was supposed to ride.  We ran up to the top of a hill before she stopped.  It really was quite fun so later on when we had a chance to run again I was only slightly more prepared but didn't hold on to the saddle horn any less.  The views of from the hills were great and we were able to see the volcano very well until we got to the base when the clouds came in.  It was a great way to spend my last morning in Costa Rica.
The shuttle back to San Jose picked me up at 1 and I was the only passenger for the ride.  The driver didn't speak English so we chatted for about 5 minutes until I ran out of Spanish.  I couldn't believe my time in Costa Rica was almost up.  I arrived at the Marriott Courtyard by the hotel which was located right next to a WalMart so I decided that was the first kick back to reality.  I stayed at the hotel and had lunch and dinner, watch the hockey game, and went to sleep early.  I needed to be on a 6:30 shuttle to the airport in the morning for my trek back home. 

Tags: costa rica, kda

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